Before the match began we were tied for first with Horfield & Redland B on 8 match points each – both teams yet to lose a match – with the rest of the field falling behind with 5 points or less. This was no time to relax.
The match began with another quick win from King Julien, on Board 5 with White, who has been flawless this season. And looking at how close some of the recent matches have been – a vital member for the team. Julien showed off with flashy moves saccing pieces left right and centre (although taking the pieces was almost never the correct response). Ultimately his opponent lost his rapid game having spent 10 minutes on the clock and blundering mate in one… This has been a recurring theme for Julien who is quite fed up with his opponents blitzing out their moves. Oh well, we will take the points.
After Asha’s win on Board 4 with Black, the match could not have had a better start. Asha had some sneaky intel against her opponent as a result of him being scouted out in Pub Chess the night before. The result – a very successful preparation of the King’s Indian Defence which proved to put enough pressure on for a blunder. The rest was clean-up.
Unfortunately, this is where things took a turn for the worse. Both Dougie and I, on Boards 3 and 4 respectively, lost our games. Dougie played with Black and got into a very closed position, where only three pawns were taken off of the board by the end of the game, with both players setting up outposts for their pieces.
Ultimately, White ended up persevering with the aggressive pawn-storm on the king-side. This was a result of a positional blunder by Black: 19. … c4??:
The idea was to go for a position of a bad dark-squared Bishop versus a good Knight. Although a good long term positional strategy, it relied on a successful defence of the incoming g- and h-pawns. But after a rook-lift, the pressure proved too much. And, although this was missed in the game, the position led to a mate in five which makes for quite an interesting puzzle:
My own game was not very interesting as the Queens were traded on move 7 in the Pirc Defence. Thanks to my sound prep I was not startled and ended up with a +3 positional advantage. Unfortunately, I went for a wrong approach to my attack which quickly threw the advantage away as a result of great defensive play by my opponent. This then turned into an advantage for Black at which point I sacrificed a pawn for some activity. However, my opponent defended perfectly trading pieces down to a winning Rook endgame. And although we all know that “All Rook endgames are drawn“, once the Rooks were traded, it was no longer an actual Rook endgame, hence no draw… In the end out of sportsmanship and for the memes I allowed a mate on move 69.
The match was now tied with games on Boards 1 and 6 still going. Sam’s game on Board 1 as White was perhaps the most interesting one of the match. Black had managed to equalise out of the opening and went for a very interesting idea to sacrifice a Knight for activity:
18. … Nxe5 19. dxe5 Qxe3. This leaves White’s pawns in shambles, opens the c-file and provides activity for the Queen while White’s King is still in the centre. But Black only gets two pawns for the Knight and with Sam’s accurate defence and consolidation he was able to castle and the position was still equal.
The position kept getting more and more tactical and it should come as no surprise that some interesting ideas were missed. A good example would be in the following position:
28. Rfd1?! was played. This is by no means a losing move, however best was 28. Rad1. The idea is quite amazing. If Black does not want to trade Queen’s with 28. … Qf5, then 28. … Qc2 29. Rxd5!! exd5 30. Bxd5. This forks the Rook on e4 and the pawn on f7 which is also attacked by the f1 Rook, it also opens up the Queen’s eyes to the Rook on c8.
If you are intrigued, try to find why 28. … Qa3 and 28. … Qb4 are even worse for Black. The resulting position leads to Black’s Rook being captured by White’s Bishop, since if Black tries to save his Rook with 30. … R4c2 31. e6 Rf8 (Bh6 leads to either mate or the loss of a Queen for Black) 32. exf7+.
There were other interesting moments missed by Black, but any chances that were missed always resulted in either White coming out on top or Black ending up in an equal position once again. This was partly a result on low time which was especially painful in the final oversight of the game: 38. Qd3??:
The winning idea is 38. Rc2 Qe4 39. Rc8+ Kh7 40. Bc2 pinning the g-pawn to the King, threatening 41. Qh5# and hitting the Rook on b1. Black’s best response is 40. … Qg1+ 41. Kh3 Qf1+ forcing a Queen trade, after which Black is simply down a piece in a losing endgame. The oversite led to a Queen trade, Black promoting and forcing White to trade off their Bishop. And I will keep repeating myself, but “All Rook endgames are drawn“. So both players agreed to a draw as soon as the Rook endgame was reached.
This mean it all came down to Board 6 where Conor remembered playing his opponent with Black some time ago. Not wanting to play into the Colle System he decided to mix thing up and try to complicate matters. This got him into trouble out of the opening, however the game went back and forth and I guess ultimately Conor achieved what he was aiming for with complicating the position as his opponent dropped a piece in a discovered attack. The rest of the game was a slow conversion and trading of pieces for the win.
With yet another win, Bristol University B is still undefeated. But with just barely getting the win, we once again await Horfield & Redland B to see if they overtake us on game points and remain head to head or if they will start falling behind like the rest of the field. Next match is Thornbury, let’s end the halfway point of the League with a decisive victory!